Most people are familiar with the term autism, but what would you do if your child was suddenly diagnosed with the condition? I’m not sure what I would do and if I’m honest, I hope to hell that I don’t have to find out. Unfortunately, we just all aren’t that lucky – my closest, most dearest, old friend certainly wasn’t.
Ruby was only twenty months old, when my friend, Joyce, realised for the the first time, there was something completely different about her little girl. Joyce was suddenly aware that Ruby didn’t always act quite like all the other kids her age did. She didn’t run for cuddles with her, in fact Ruby, almost, recoiled at the touch of another human being – even her mum. Ruby and Joyce are far from being alone. Ruby is one of an approximate 588,000 people in Britain with autism. Luckily for Ruby, her autism was detected at a young age, but it can be hard to diagnose – it can go undetected for many years.
So, what are the signs that you should look out for if you are concerned about your child? Autism is diagnosed on an individual level, using triad impairments. We are all unique individuals, so all of our behaviours will be different and individual to us, but all of those people who suffer with autism will show some kind of difficulty across the triad.
The impairment of any form of social interaction is a key sign, Those children who have autism will on some level find it difficult to engage with other people. These children can find it particularly hard to make friends especially with those of the same age to them. They can also find it hard to show any level of empathy.
Impairments in communication are also a common sign of a child with autism. Some children may have delayed speech development and find it hard to communicate or see speech as unnecessary. However, your child maybe at the other end of the autistic spectrum and in which case, their vocabulary may be incredibly impressive. Other forms of communication like body language or facial expressions may also not be recognised by those with autism.
Impairment of the child’s imagination may also be a clue to them being on the autistic spectrum. You may notice that your child plays with their toys differently to other kids. They may focus on one particular aspect of a toy and play with that over and over again – a wheel on a car for example. Children with autism also generally prefer reading factual books rather than stories.
If like my friend Joyce, you think that your child may be presenting signs of autism, it is advisable to contact the National Autism Society helpline or your doctor. Both will be able to answer any of your concerns or questions, as well as pointing you in the right direction in search of help and support for both you and your child.